Improving patient care is a critical priority in the United States, and nurses play a vital role in achieving this goal. However, the ongoing nursing shortage, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, has posed significant challenges. While the country is focused on improving healthcare with enhanced software solutions and AI, it is also important to look out for the nurses and caregivers who are key to a patient’s well-being, too.
Keeping that in mind, this article explores the impact of the nursing shortage, addresses the importance of nursing job satisfaction, and introduces real-time location system (RTLS) technology as a solution to enhance patient care efficiency.
The Impact of the Nursing Shortage on Patient Care
The Great Resignation exacerbated the nursing shortage and the exodus of over 5 million people from the workforce between 2020 and 2022. Reports estimate that healthcare, including nursing, lost 20% of its workforce, with nurses accounting for 30% of those departures. Job burnout is a significant reason contributing to nurses leaving patient care for other jobs, emphasizing the need for increased nursing job satisfaction.
Enhancing Nursing Job Satisfaction for Improved Patient Care
To reduce nursing burnout and turnover, it is crucial to prioritize nursing job satisfaction. Allocating more time for direct patient care and reducing administrative duties play pivotal roles in enhancing job satisfaction. Administrators can mitigate this challenge by ensuring nurses spend maximum time focused on patient care during each shift, thus minimizing waste in the inpatient setting.
Identifying Key Areas of Waste in Healthcare
Reducing waste is essential for improving patient care resources and controlling costs. Nurses, representing a significant portion of the hospital workforce, face various challenges that contribute to waste. Time management, particularly the time spent searching for equipment, is a major area for improvement. Lost productivity due to equipment search directly impacts patient care and can even be life-threatening.
The Cost of Time Wasted on Equipment Search
Studies indicate that preventable wasted time accounts for approximately one-third of each nursing shift, with nurses spending only around 30% of their time directly with patients and 12% of their shift searching for equipment. The time spent looking for equipment results in significant inefficiencies. For instance, nurses may spend an average of 21 minutes per shift searching for lost equipment, leading to reduced productivity. Extrapolating these numbers to the 1.7 million registered nurses working in hospitals, the potential cost of lost productivity amounts to billions of dollars annually.
Enhancing Efficiency with Real-Time Location Systems (RTLS)
Real-time location systems (RTLS) offer a solution to improve hospital efficiency and enhance patient care. RTLS utilizes local tracking systems and software applications to identify the real-time location of personnel and equipment within a healthcare facility. By integrating tracking information into operational systems, hospitals can provide instant access to equipment locations, reducing the time nurses spend searching for vital resources.
Building blocks of RTLS technology
An RTLS system comprises several essential components working together seamlessly:
Tags or Badges: These small, battery-powered devices are attached to assets, patients, or personnel. They emit signals that can be detected and tracked by the RTLS system.
Infrastructure: The infrastructure consists of a network of sensors or receivers strategically placed throughout the healthcare facility. These receivers capture the signals emitted by the tags or badges.
Communication Network: The captured signals are transmitted over a secure communication network, enabling real-time data transmission between the infrastructure and the central RTLS software.
Central Software: The central software processes the data received from the infrastructure, enabling real-time tracking, analysis, and visualization of assets or individuals within the healthcare facility.
Mediums that RTLS utilizes
RTLS systems utilize various localization techniques to determine the precise location of tags or badges:
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID): RFID is a widely used technology in RTLS systems. It relies on electromagnetic fields for communication between the tags and the receivers. By measuring the signal strength and time differences of arrival, the system triangulates the position of the tags.
Ultra-Wideband (UWB): UWB technology operates by transmitting short-duration pulses across a broad frequency range. By analyzing the time of flight and signal reflections, UWB-based RTLS systems achieve highly accurate location tracking.
Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE): BLE technology is commonly used for tracking smaller assets or personnel within close proximity. BLE-enabled tags communicate with receivers using low-energy Bluetooth signals, allowing for precise localization.
Transforming locational information into Actionable Insights
Once the location data is collected by the infrastructure, it is processed and visualized through the central software. Here are the settings in place to enhance the accuracy of the results.
Data Processing: The central software analyzes the received data, applying algorithms to calculate the real-time position of each tag. It also incorporates additional contextual information, such as floor plans or zones, to enhance accuracy and provide meaningful insights.
Real-Time Tracking: The processed data is continuously updated, enabling real-time tracking of assets or individuals on the central software’s interface. Healthcare professionals can monitor movements, identify patterns, and make informed decisions based on real-time location information.
Alerts and Notifications: The RTLS system can be configured to trigger alerts or notifications based on predefined rules or thresholds. For instance, alerts can be generated when an asset enters or leaves a restricted area, ensuring compliance and security.
Two major integrations of RTLS in healthcare
RTLS systems are designed to integrate with existing healthcare systems to maximize their benefits
Electronic Health Records (EHR): By integrating RTLS with EHR systems, healthcare providers can streamline workflows, improve patient safety, and enhance care coordination. Real-time location data can be seamlessly incorporated into patient records, providing a comprehensive view of the care journey.
Asset Management Systems: RTLS systems can integrate with asset management systems, allowing for automated inventory management, maintenance tracking, and utilization optimization. This integration ensures efficient allocation and tracking of critical assets, reducing costs and improving resource utilization.
Overall benefits of a well-implemented RTLS system
Research highlights several benefits and applications of RTLS in healthcare
Improved workflow and staff resource assessments: Studies have shown how RTLS helps identify inefficient utilization of resources, such as physician residents spending only 12% of their time in patient rooms.
Enhanced asset management: Poor management of assets can lead to significant financial waste, but RTLS aids in effective asset tracking and management.
Scheduling and utilization management: RTLS data can optimize provider scheduling, improving utilization in outpatient clinical settings.
Staff and patient safety: RTLS can facilitate discrete panic alerts and track the proximity of infected individuals, leading to improved safety measures.
Realizing the Value of RTLS and Future Research
A systematic review of RTLS application in healthcare delivery supports its effectiveness in workflow assessment, productivity analysis, and asset management. Focusing on nursing productivity and waste reduction through RTLS implementation can directly enhance job satisfaction, increase patient care time, and improve the overall quality of care. Future research should explore the quantifiable value and cost savings of RTLS, considering updated nursing surveys and real-time workflow analysis.
Addressing the nursing shortage and improving patient care efficiency are pressing concerns in US healthcare. By prioritizing nursing job satisfaction and implementing innovative solutions like real-time location systems (RTLS), hospitals can enhance workflow, reduce waste, and ultimately provide better care to patients. We can help you build an RTLS system and integrate it with your current hospital system. Connect with us for a consultation. email@example.com
Latest posts by Mitrajit Das (see all)
- Medicare Revolutionizing Behavioral Health Access: What Providers Need to Know - September 25, 2023